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Fish Bulletin No. 80. The Commercial Fish Catch of California For the Years 1948–1949 With Yield Per Area of the California Sardine Fishing Grounds 1937–1949

  • Author(s): Staff of the Bureau of Marine Fisheries
  • et al.

This is a fourth report on the fishing areas for the sardine, Sardinops caerulea, off the California coast. Previous accounts described the areas in detail from shortly after the industry's inception (investigation records date from 1919), through the period of rapid expansion (1920's), and terminated with the peak season of production (1936–37). During the twenties the fishing grounds were extended from the localities near port to greater distances both offshore and north and south along the coast. By the end of that decade the fishermen were operating from Pt. Reyes to the Farallon Islands and southward to Pt. Sur, and by the mid-thirties the San Francisco fishermen were catching sardines as far north as Pt. Arena. In Southern California the fishing grounds extended from Pt. Conception to San Diego and around all the Channel Islands. The present study covers the 12 seasons 1937–38 through 1948–49. In this time interval the maximum boundaries of the fishing grounds remained the same. The only marked change was the development by the Monterey fishermen of the grounds between Pt. Sur and Pt. Buchon. The purpose of this report is threefold: to record where sardines were caught, to note the yield of sardines per block area, and to indicate any shift of fishing grounds during the period of study. The earliest reports were based on fishermen interviews, giving accurate pinpoint locations of catches. This method is limited by the number of interviews that can be held during any given season, which, in practice, never encompasses the entire fleet. The full extent of the fishing grounds is thus difficult to determine. The recording of the successful fishing locations of the entire fleet during each fishing day of the season was begun in the early 1930's, when the waters off the coast were divided into numbered blocks of 10 minutes of latitude and 10 minutes of longitude. The Division of Fish and Game provides the fishermen with charts showing these blocks and requests that the block in which the catch was made be recorded on the receipt which the weighmaster makes out when a load of fish is purchased. A copy of this receipt furnishes the basic information from which the California fishery statistics are compiled. To obtain supplementary data, checkers are maintained at each port during the sardine season; they observe and make notes on the unloading of the boats, the composition of the catch, the condition of the fish, and any other pertinent information. These notes are filed with the corresponding boat receipts and the two combined represent a fairly complete history of a load of sardines. In the present study the material was first compiled to show total tonnages taken from each specific block without regard to port of delivery. To indicate general trends and to eliminate minute details the 12 seasons were combined into four three-season groups: 1937–38 through 1939–40, 1940–41 through 1942–43, 1943–44 through 1945–46, and 1946–47 through 1948–49. The average tonnage of each block area in each of the three-season groups was then computed and plotted. The present extent of the sardine fishing grounds was well established by the early 1930's. To note any shift of fishing intensity within these known grounds, the tonnages for individual blocks were grouped into broader areas. The seasonal tonnage for each of these larger regions was computed and its relative importance indicated as a percentage of the total season catch for the entire State.

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